Review: Half-World by Marissa Ker

Half-World, a new drama, takes audiences on a scholarly literary foray from the ‘Gabba Substation to Sydney and Melbourne circa 1924.

First stop is a squat in bohemian Sydney.  Here lives Anne H Brennan (played by Melanie Bolovan), the daughter of a well-known poet.  Australia’s first home-grown female lawyer, Anne T Brennan (played by Lucy Czerwinski), stops by unannounced.  The two Anne Brennans never met in real life but in the world of this play they do.  And sparks fly.

The printed program is the cleverest this reviewer has seen.  Printed on the reverse is a page from The Bulletin with an article entitled ‘Psycho-analysis and youth’.  Written by one ‘Anna T Brennan’, it was misattributed to Anne H Brennan.  This historical fact is the springboard from which writer Rebecca Cheers has created this feminist fantasy.  It’s a tantalising setup.  The play provokes questions such as, ‘What would it be like to be a writer with a doppelganger?’  ‘What life choices have been available to Australian women in the last 100 years?’

Both lead actresses are well-cast and deliver strong performances in this dialogue-driven piece.  Bolovan’s Brennan is a streetwise libertine.  Czerwinski’s Brennan is straight-laced and disapproving.  Director Christopher Batkin also capably portrays two minor male characters.  In an ideal world, it would be preferable to have an actor play these characters so the director can concentrate on directing.

This is a thoughtful, well-acted play.  In this reviewer’s opinion, however, it is not yet highly entertaining theatre.  More could be made of each entrance and exit by each character.  This reviewer would like to see heightened drama between the protagonists, more variation in pace and a dash of humour.  The costuming, designed by Rebecca Laffey, is well done.  On opening night, the play ran for about 35 minutes.  Stage and production manager Kayla Robinson makes good use of the space and rudimentary lighting.  It would, however, be preferable if the stage was set when the lights come up.

The creative team of 6 are light on experience but high on potential and talent.  Back them by going to see this show.  You don’t have to be a feminist to learn something from the experience.

Review by Marissa Ker of performance on Friday 10 May 2018.